Just a heads up, this post is sponsored by the fine folks at Block Advisors. This should go without saying, but all opinions are our own and came straight from our own noggins.
A few years ago, we began exchanging emails with a Nigerian prince who wanted to bequeath us his $500 million inheritance. In the words of Michael Scott, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly asking for help, you help! Sadly, we’re still waiting for our payout, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed nonetheless. After all, he wrote to us in all caps. And we all know only legit business deals happen in all caps.
We all hate scammers. Identity thieves are always on the prowl, but tax season is open season for them to prey on easy targets. These guys hunker down in their mom’s basements and cash in by filing phony tax returns and receiving a refund in your name. Once someone has stolen your social security number, it’s relatively easy to file your tax return before your employer’s W-2 form has even been sent to your home. Suddenly, you’ve filed your taxes only to receive a notice from the IRS telling you it’s a duplicate. Say what?
Because we don’t love being easy targets for identity theft, we’ve adopted some tried-and-true tactics to protect ourselves from their exploits.
- When it comes to passwords, we don’t mess around. This means using password generators. You can find some free and inexpensive options that will generate and safely store your passwords across all your devices.
- Two-step authentication is the bomb dot com. Even if a hacker snags your password, two-step verification prevents them from accessing your account from an unfamiliar location. If you don’t have this set up on your email and banking accounts, drop your Pop Tart and get to it.
- Organizations like the IRS will never ever ever ask you for your social security number or password in an email, so beware of any emails that urgently ask for sensitive information. Always double-check the email address of the sender – typically, phishing emails have strange email handles that sound sketchy. Anything from firstname.lastname@example.org is probably a basement dwelling cretin.
- Shredder isn’t just the name of your favorite character on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We use our paper shredder to destroy all our sensitive documents, expired credit cards and financial pre-approvals so dumpster divers can’t piece together our information.
- Downloading free computer virus scanning software is a great way to prevent malware before it infects your computer. We routinely scan our hard drives to ensure nothing sinister is lurking in the background.
- Be aware of any major data breaches that occur in the news. Back when Target had its huge data-leak disaster, we checked to make sure our names weren’t among those whose identities were in peril. Same goes for Home Depot and other recent breaches like it.
Even after all the above steps have been taken, it’s not a bad idea to have someone in your corner keeping an eye out. Block Advisors introduced us to their Tax Identity Shield product which makes it easy to safeguard your sensitive information year-round. You’ll get advice on how to reduce your risk, a pre-tax scan to ensure you’re in the clear before you file, and a proactive defense against identity theft for future refunds. And should your worst fears come true and MOMSbazement4LYFE files and cashes in your tax refund, you’ll get one-on-one support to restore your identity and your rightful money to your account.
Maybe you don’t feel you’re susceptible to identity thieves. If so, here’s a fun story to read. But if you’re like the rest of us, you may realize the ever-present danger of stolen identities due to our increasingly computerized world. Take the time to figure out how you’re safeguarding yourself, where you’re most vulnerable, and whether or not you need professional help to give you true peace of mind.